Humanities › History & Culture The Story Behind the Double Happiness Symbol What is the origin of this Chinese character? Share Flipboard Email Print fzant / Getty Images History & Culture Asian History East Asia Basics Figures & Events Southeast Asia South Asia Middle East Central Asia Asian Wars and Battles American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Charles Custer Journalist and Documentarian B.A., East Asian Studies, Brown University Charlie Custer is a writer, editor, and video producer focusing on China. He directed a documentary film about human trafficking in China. our editorial process Charles Custer Updated January 18, 2020 You may have heard of the Double Happiness symbol, but do you know what it means or how it came about? Use this profile to get better acquainted with the history of this Chinese character and discover if it has a place in your life. What Is the Double Happiness Symbol? Double Happiness is a large Chinese character featured on red paper. It is comprised of two connected copies of the character for happiness, which is spelled xi. The Story of the Symbol The double happiness symbol dates back to the Tang Dynasty. According to legend, there was a student on his way to the capital to take an examination, after which the top scorers would be selected as ministers of the court. Unfortunately, the student fell ill along the way as he passed through a mountain village. But thankfully, an herbalist and his daughter took him to their house and expertly treated him. The student recovered quickly because of their good care. However, when the time came for him to leave, he found it hard to say goodbye to the herbalist's daughter, and so did she—they had fallen in love with each other. So, the girl wrote down half of a couplet for the student: "Green trees against the sky in the spring rain while the sky set off the spring trees in the obscuration." With that, the student left to take his examination, promising to return to her. The young man ended up scoring highest in the examination. The emperor recognized his intellect and, as part of the interview that followed, asked him to finish part of a couplet. The emperor wrote: "Red flowers dot the land in the breeze's chase while the land colored up in red after the kiss." The young man realized immediately that the girl's half-couplet was a perfect fit for the emperor's, so he used her words to answer. The emperor was delighted with this response and appointed the young man as a minister of the court. Before beginning the position, however, the student was allowed to pay a visit to his hometown. He ran back to the herbalist's daughter and told her the story of the two half-couplets coming together perfectly as one. They soon wed, and during the ceremony, they doubled the Chinese character for "happy" on a red piece of paper and placed it on the wall. Wrapping Up Ever since the couple's wedding, the Double Happiness symbol has become a Chinese social custom, prominent especially in aspects of Chinese weddings, from wedding invitations to decorations. It is also common for people to gift the symbol to a couple to bestow upon them a blessing of good luck for their marriage. In all of these contexts, the Double Happiness symbol represents joy and unity.